1st October 2016 : The SWAS 40th Anniversary Celebration Dinner
Nineteen Members attended a splendid Celebration Dinner at Pycombe Golf Club on the first Saturday in October. We were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco Frizzante before enjoying a four-course meal which was prepared for us by the Golf Club's Chef and served by their own waitresses. Every SWAS member received a personalised Menu which included an introduction from Jill & Bryan and detailed their dinner choices. The evening could not have been possible were it not for the hard work put in by Jill, Bryan and David. We thank them!
1. Cabert Prosecco Violino Frizzante; 11% alc; from South Downs Cellars
Prosecco is a sparkling white wine from north-eastern Italy, specifically the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine regions. It is also the informal name for the grape variety used to make these wines, which is known officially as Glera. Since July 2009, the name 'Prosecco' has been regulated and protected under DOC law, ensuring that wines labeled with the name come only from the specified areas of north-eastern Italy.
The Prosecco DOC covers three styles of wine: still Prosecco, lightly sparkling Prosecco Frizzante and foaming Prosecco Spumante. It also has two viticultural sub-regions identified within its laws: Treviso in Veneto and Trieste in Friuli (the Asolo/Colli Asolani and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene titles have their own independent DOCGs). The still form of Prosecco is rarely seen outside Italy. Few are even aware that this wine, so overshadowed by its sparkling siblings, exists. The distinction between the spumante and frizzante wines also goes largely unnoticed: it is the difference between 2.5 and 3 bars of pressure inside the unopened bottle.
All Prosecco wines are made predominantly from the Prosecco (Glera) grape, which must account for 85% of the final blend. The varieties permitted to make up the remaining 15% are local varieties Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera and Glera Lunga and the international sparkling winemaker's stock repertoire of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero (also known as Pinot Noir). Naturally the Pinot Noir must be vinificato in bianco ('made as a white wine'), as the Prosecco DOC laws do not (yet) allow the production of pink Prosecco Rosato.
First Course Wine:
2. Domaine de Viranel Viognier, IGP Pays d'Herault Cessenon, Langedoc, France; 100% Viognier; from South Downs Cellars
Domaine de Viranel is some 20kn North of Narbonne.
Viognier is a white-wine grape variety known for producing textural, aromatic wines with pronounced stonefruit flavors; 'apricots and steel' are the variety's classic flavor associations. On the nose, Viognier wines can also be very herbal, with aromas of chamomile, lavender, thyme and even a hint of pine. In aged examples and sweeter styles, this potentially overpowering herbality is softened by honeyed notes.
In the late 1960s just 40 acres (16ha) of Viognier vines were all that remained in the world, located exclusively in the vineyards of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet. Happily, the 1970s saw new life breathed into the near-extinct variety, by the Yalumba winery in Australia's Eden Valley and a handful of Californian wine growers (notably Calera in Mount Harlan). During the 21st Century, Viognier has had a remarkable renaissance, and is now found in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the U.S., Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan. In some instances the plantings remain experimental, as in Rioja and Piedmont, where local wine laws impose restrictions on how the variety can be used. In other locations, notably California and Australia, Viognier has emerged as a prestigious niche variety.
Main Course Wine:
3. Ribeiro Santo, Dão 2013, Portugal; 13.5% alc; from The Wine Society
Dão reds used to have bracing acidity and often high tannins too. These days, the grapes are riper and the flavours have greater purity, especially in the hands of a younger generation. The wines benefit from a little time in bottle, keeping the freshness to complement fattier pork dishes and casseroles. The 2013 of this excellent example is a little lighter than the 2012 but no less good for that, with a clean fresh palate of cherry and red-berry fruits, with a herby twist.
Established in 2012 by a team of three experienced winemakers, Magnum Vinhos has its roots in the Dão region but also produces wines from Alentejo and Douro. Carlos Lucas, Lúcia Freitas and Carlos Rodrigues had all worked at Dão Sul (Carlos Lucas was one of the co-founders back in 1990). They each brought experience and expertise from previous lives in the wine industry and chose to focus on authentic wines made from indigenous Portuguese grapes.
The Quinta do Ribeiro Santo ('Holy River') estate in Carregal Sal is a small Dão property restored by Carlos Lucas. It was named after the stream which surrounds the property once owned by the local priest. Set among the pine forests typical of the region on the slopes of the Serra da Estrela and Serra do Caramulo mountains, the vineyards are farmed sustainably and certified under the Integrated Production system. There are six hectares of vineyards here, planted to local grape varieties touriga nacional, alfrocheiro, tinto cão and encruzado, amongst others, in poor granitic soils; a new winemaking facility was ready for the 2014 vintage.
The 'SWAS Cellar' Wines to accompany the Cheese Course:
We were honoured this evening to be joined by Brian Hunt and his wife Grace. Although not quite a 'founder member', Brian is a veteran of the very early days of SWAS. He was kind enough to share with us some memories of those very early days just after SWAS was founded by Geoffrey Butler in late 1976.
To accompany our excellent Cheese Course, Brian, James and David presented four bottles of three selected fine wines from the SWAS Cellar for us to enjoy.
4. Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo, Vigneto Monvigliero 2008; Nebbiolo grape; 14.5% alc; purchased in 2013 from The Wine Society for £28 (our last bottle!)
The small Burlotto estate in the Piedmontese village of Verduno is run by Fabio Alessandria, whose great-grandfather Giovanni Batista Burlotto founded it in the 19th Century. Burlotto almost single-handedly put Barolo on the international wine map, having been one of the first to spot its incredible potential. He entered his wines into international competitions and won many medals for them, something that was unprecedented at the time, and was awarded the distinguished title of 'Il Commendatore' in recognition of his gallant efforts for Barolo.
Whilst the premises and cellars here are modest, the wines are some of the most spectacular in all of Piedmonte. Fragrant on the nose, with bright fruits and velvety tannins, they gring out the characteristics of each grape, whether nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto or the lesser known pelaverga, a pale and interesting Piedmontese speciality with a spicy freshness and a slightly bitter twist on the finish which adds to its charm. Winemaking is firmly traditional with the emphasis on large oak barrels, though there is a preference here for French rather than Slovakian oak.
The jewel in Burlotto's crown is Monvigliero, a legendary Barolo vineyard which produces wine of great of great individuality and ageing potential, never forced or overly powereful but relying instead on charm and elegance to capture our attention.
5. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine La Roquete 2005; Grenach, Syrah, Mourvèdre grapes; 14.5% alc; purchased for £26 from The Wine Society (our last bottle!)
This vineyard is owned by the Brunier brothers who also own Vieux Télégraphe. La Roquète is made slightly differently with a little less extraction to allow the wines to be drunk sooner. This is full with a long spicy finish. Should be decanted an hour before serving.
Daniel and Frédéric Brunier of Domaine La Roquète now run this Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate after it was bought by their father in its run-down state in 1986. The winery itself is found near the centre of the toen of Châteauneuf with the vineyards scattered around Châteauneuf and Gigondas. These are planted with 70% grenache, 20% syrah and 10% mourvèrdre. A brand new winery was constructed in the 1990s where, unsurprisingly, the Bruniers employ practices similar to their flagship estate. The original idea here was to make a wine similar to Vieux Télégraphe but accessible sooner - this they have certainly achieved with the grand vin which is fine and supple for early to mid drinking. Overall quality across the board has improved dramatically here since the takeover and is looking better every year.
6. Saint-Joseph Tildé, Domaine Villa, Valée du Rhône, 2009; 13.0% alc; Syrah/Shiraz grape; purchased from The Wine Society for £32 (our last two bottles!)
Very concentrated old vine Syrah from the middle reaches of the large west bank commune of Saint-Joseph which stretches practically from Condrieu to Cornas.
Pierre-Jean Villa's career took off in Burgundy at Clos de Tart and he still keeps a hand in Burgundy as well as running a boutique-sized estate in the northern Rhône. Saint-Joseph is his main focus and this is a lovely, supple red made from 40-year-old vines. Although he can’t boast the long family connection of many French winemakers, Pierre-Jean Villa certainly has a natural talent for the job. He began at Clos de Tart in Burgundy, and although he still has connections in that region (he is involved in a joint project to make Nuits-Saint-Georges), the Rhône has been his focus since 2009, when he created his own domaine here. Based in the heart of the northern Rhône, his vineyard is made up of lots of little parcels on good slopes, and he makes several wines from various appellations.
Our menus for the evening:
A sample of the individually printed Menus which the Golf Club very kindly provided for us: